How to approach unexpected resignations

image with title settling back into work after Christmas
Our teams are what makes our business work, grow and thrive. When we recruit staff, we get the absolute right person for the job, who will be an asset to the business, right? So how do you deal with one of those vital team members handing over their resignation?

React calmly and be understanding

You might be panicking on the inside, but try to remember that the situation isn’t personal! On average, people tend to move jobs every three to four years. This includes going back to previous employers – so keep that in mind!

Exit interview

Our first suggestion would be to ask the employee to sit down and chat about why they’re leaving, in an ‘exit interview’. There may be something that you could do or say that could change their mind, but this is also a vital learning tool for you.

Are they wanting more responsibility, a promotion, pay rise? Is there something going on within the business that is pushing employees away? What caused them to start looking for a new job in the first place? Use the interview as a learning tool and make notes of what you can change.

Should you counter-offer?

Depending upon the level of impact the person has on your organisation, it may be tempting to make a counter-offer to retain them. If they’re a fundamental part of your business, then it might be worthwhile but, more often than not, this can be counter-productive in the long-term for both your business and the employee.

For example, if their colleagues see that the employee has received a pay rise by threatening to quit, they may consider it as a negotiating tactic themselves. Also, if your employee accepts a counter-offer, they may end up questioning their decision just a short while later. They will remember that something turned their head, and often it isn’t a monetary issue.

Assuming your employee does decide to leave, it’s time to plan ahead

It’s important to remember that nobody is irreplaceable, and resignations give you a rare moment to consider the structure and operations of your business. Do you simply replace them like-for-like, or can you adapt the current team to fill the gap? Does it require more than one person to do the role?


Use their notice period to tie up loose ends and ensure a smooth transition for their replacement. Make sure that you allocate other colleagues to pick up the work of the departing employee. They will have a head start if they can have a handover period with the person who is leaving.

Finding a replacement

When it comes to replacing the employee, it’s crucial to speak to a recruiter straight away. The earlier you can get somebody in, the easier the transition will be. Ideally, you would be able to use some of the leaver’s resignation period to introduce the new employee, rather than them learning from colleagues about the bits they picked up.

Learning from the experience

Employees leaving their roles is an inevitable part of running a business. Once the initial shock dies down, what can you learn from the experience? And what can you do differently to ensure this doesn’t become a regular occurrence?

There are plenty of employee retention tips we can advise on, many that we have covered before in our previous blogs.

All employees are different of course, and each has unique desires and goals, so if you would like a helping hand our consultants will happily help to devise the most appropriate retention plan for your business.

Remember, we’re here to support you wherever you need us!

We have candidates waiting for new roles and looking to move into businesses just like yours. Drop us a line on 0114 321 1873 or to see how we can help replace your departing staff.

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